MILWAUKEE – The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s App Brewery and the Sojourner Family Peace Center have partnered to develop an app that discreetly and quickly gives those affected by domestic abuse an emergency connection to the help they need.
“We know that the information and support that a survivor can get by talking to an advocate saves lives,” says Carmen Pitre, executive director of Sojourner Family Peace Center. “This is one more tool to make information easily available.”
The app includes links and phone numbers for places where abuse victims can find help, including Sojourner’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline and Sojourner Family Peace Center programs and services.
Unlike other informational apps that the in-demand App Brewery has developed, the Sojourner Peace app comes with privacy features to help protect users. One quick touch fades the screen to black and clears the browsing history. The button for the app itself can be hidden behind a generic app button.
“When we found out what Sojourner does, and how their work affects those who’ve been abused, we thought it was a project that could really make a difference,” says UWM App Brewery Manager Dustin Hahn.
Spreading the Sojourner Peace app
After months of testing alongside their UWM colleagues, Sojourner staff loaded the app on their phones, practiced with it and are now sharing it with clients. The Sojourner Peace app is compatible with Apple and Android products.
In addition to emergency contact info, users can confidentially examine their relationships and take preventive measures. If the app’s relationship quiz indicates a user is at risk of being abused, the app encourages her to contact an agency for follow-up services and a discussion about safety.
“Safety is always our primary focus,” says Pitre.
While there were concerns that abusers might use the app to try to locate or further harass their victims, the center’s staff decided to go ahead and market it widely to victims and potential victims.
“We encourage victims to talk to an advocate about technology safety overall, including the safety of downloading the app,” adds Pitre.
Brewing up a reputation for good work
Like other apps the Brewery has developed, the project involved student developers from academic programs that prepare them for careers in information studies and technology, graphic design and computer science. Students apply classroom learning as they work directly with influential nonprofit firms throughout Milwaukee. Nonprofit clients, who might not have much of an information technology budget, get a useful mobile app that helps them reach out to those they serve.
“Our students get real world experience,” says Tomas A. Lipinski, dean of the School of Information Studies. “Community service is one of the hallmarks of UWM, and one of the things we do at SOIS is to teach students to empower themselves and others through technology. This app is an excellent example of that.”
There is already talk of expanding the Sojourner Peace app’s reach. Now available in English and Spanish, the app might include a Russian version soon, according to Hahn.
“This is a useful resource and tool so we wanted to spread the word far and wide,” says Petrie.
About Sojourner Family Peace Center
Sojourner Family Peace Center is the largest provider of domestic violence prevention and intervention services in Wisconsin, serving 10,000 clients annually. Our mission is to transform lives impacted by domestic violence. Our primary goals are to ensure the safety of victims of family violence and to provide a pathway out of violence for victims and abusers through opportunities to make positive and lasting changes for themselves and their children. In 2015, Sojourner will celebrate 40 years of transforming lives in Milwaukee. We have been a leader in providing domestic violence programming and services in Milwaukee. As experts in the field, we have a proven track record of providing safety, support and emergency assistance to families in need.
As Wisconsin’s only public urban research university, UWM has established an international reputation for excellence in research, community engagement, teaching and entrepreneurism. UWM educates more than 28,000 students on an operating budget of $546 million, an amount that does not include federal financial aid passed through to students. The Princeton Review named UWM a “2015 Best in the Midwest” university based on overall academic excellence and student reviews. An engine for innovation in southeastern Wisconsin, UWM’s economic impact is more than $1.5 billion per year in Wisconsin alone.